New coronavirus infections are rising again in most states for the first time in two months, and deaths are rising in about half of U.S. states, a USA TODAY analysis of Johns Hopkins University data reveals.

The week ended Wednesday saw a rise in case numbers in 29 states, compared to the previous week. Just 12 states were experiencing an increase in case counts a month back.

States reporting increasing cases are mostly in the North. This region had done much better than the South in late summer when the Delta variant decimated the South. Vermont is seeing record numbers of cases, a pioneer in vaccines. Florida, which has suffered the most deaths of any state since July 1 – 22,600 – now reports the lowest daily per-capita case count of any state.

Even after safe, effective and completely free vaccines were made available to everyone, the highly contagious delta virus continued dominating. Now, health officials encourage booster shots and new vaccines to be approved for children. 

Mike Stucka

Also in the news:

►About 900,000 kids age 5 to 11 will have received their first dose of the COVID-19 vaccine in their first week of eligibility, the White House said Wednesday, providing the first glimpse at the pace of the school-age vaccination campaign.

►Tennessee Gov. Bill Lee stated Wednesday that he would sign a broad legislative package that will limit authority local schools, businesses and health agencies have over COVID-19.

►The U.S. has recorded more than 46 million confirmed COVID-19 cases and more than 759,000 deaths, according to Johns Hopkins University data. Global sum: 5 million deaths and 251.5 million cases. More than 194 million Americans – 58% of the population – are fully vaccinated, according to the CDC.

📘 What we’re reading: If you’re taking your child to get vaccinated against COVID-19 soon, experts say some approaches can make it easier.

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NFL player taken to the emergency room by COVID

The coronavirus struck the NFL’s Minnesota Vikings this week, including a vaccinated player who was admitted to an emergency room, head coach Mike Zimmer said Wednesday. Zimmer, who said the situation was “scary,” said the player was hospitalized in stable condition. ESPN and NFL Network reported that the player was offensive lineman Dakota Dozier, who was placed on the team’s reserve/COVID-19 list last Friday. The Vikings have put several players on the COVID roster in recent days. NFL policy doesn’t require that players who are vaccinated be quarantined. 

“It’s serious stuff,” Zimmer, who has been outspoken in urging players to get vaccinated, said Wednesday. Because of their close contact with each other, like 29 men, they are being tested.

Analis Bailey

Universities with mandates see widespread compliance

Universities that adopted COVID-19 vaccine mandates this fall have seen widespread compliance even though many schools made it easy to get out of the shots by granting exemptions to nearly any student who requested one. Colleges are facing resistance and scattered lawsuits. Having to give exemptions for students who have medical or religious objections could make it difficult for schools. There are additional concerns for some that a strict line may lead to enrollment drops.

However, mandated universities report higher vaccination rates than the communities surrounding them. This is even when there are high levels of vaccine hesitancy. Most of the nation’s largest public universities aren’t seeing large numbers of student exemption requests, according to an analysis by The Associated Press. At the same time, those colleges have approved the vast majority – in some cases all – of the requests.

Virginia Tech University is home to 95% of all students who are currently vaccinated. The school allowed 1,600 exemptions from students provided they consented to weekly testing.

Judge blocks Texas governor’s ban on mask mandates in schools

On Wednesday, a federal judge declared that Governor. Greg Abbott’s executive order that bans schools from imposing mask mandates cannot be enforced because it violates federal law by putting students with disabilities at greater risk. U.S. District Judge Lee Yeakel also blocked Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton from bringing legal action against school districts that require students, teachers and staff to wear face coverings as a pandemic safety measure. The evidence, Yeakel wrote, shows that wearing masks can decrease the risk of spreading COVID-19 – a particularly useful strategy for children with disabilities who can be at higher risk of contracting respiratory disease and from suffering more severe symptoms.

Yeakel explained that GA-38 prohibits schools from requiring students to wear masks. Students with disabilities either have to be expelled entirely or take unnecessarily more health- and safety risks than nondisabled classmates.

Tom Melsheimer (a Dallas attorney who represented students and their families) praised the decision.

“From now on, all school districts in the state can follow sound medical science and use common sense to safeguard the most vulnerable. This is a reasonable result. Melsheimer stated.

– Chuck Lindell, Austin American-Statesman

Contributing to The Associated Press



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